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An examination of the corporate social and environmental disclosures of BHP from 1983-1997: A test of legitimacy theory

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This study examines the social and environmental disclosures of BHP Ltd (one of the largest Australian companies) from 1983 to 1997 to ascertain the extent and type of annual report social and environmental disclosures over the period, and whether such disclosures can be explained by the concepts of a social contract and legitimacy theory. This research is also motivated by the opportunity to compare and contrast results with those of Guthrie and Parker, in whose study the social and environmental disclosures made by BHP Ltd were also the focus of analysis. In testing the relationship between community concern for particular social and environmental issues (as measured by the extent of media attention), and BHP's annual report disclosures on the same issues, significant positive correlations were obtained for the general themes of environment and human resources as well as for various sub-issues within these, and other, themes. Additional testing also supported the view that management release positive social and environmental information in response to unfavourable media attention. Such results lend support to legitimation motives for a company's social and environmental disclosures. A trend in providing greater social and environmental information in the annual report of BHP in recent years, and its variable pattern, was also evidenced.

Keywords: Annual Reports; Business Policy; Disclosure; Environment; Management; Perception

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-08-22

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